Thursday, August 6, 2009

Melbourne Part 3hree - The Final Sparkle

It's a feature of my nationality that we are malcontented and dislocated - in a cold climate we'll rub our hands mournfully and demand sunlight but when sunlight comes we'll shuffle around in search of a breeze. I'm not much different, but I try my best. It's early morning, the middle of the Bourke Street Mall, street sweepers and Big Issue sellers milling around for position. I have in my possession an expensive bag, to drop off for my glamorous cousin, the kind who is so immaculate and fashionably dressed you feel bad for being as rough as guts and the possession of offensively weak stubble. I can't grow a moustache, if I do it just ends up looking like something a tramp would reject for being a little too outre'. Even though I've bypassed a healthy dose of grease on the breakfast tray to be here, or at least an ironic death eating the healthy dose of grease breakfast they've advertised, and my eyes haven't adjusted to the levels of mid morning grey desolation enveloping the sky - my eyes working a little bit like the contrast button on an old television with a bad aerial, with adjustments needed all the time just to get a picture - I'm trying to be positive about the joys in doing something for someone else. The street sweeper is a buzz kill on any positive thoughts, meandering up and down on one of those little carts with all the burdens that go with it. Maybe it's my bleary mid morning eyes, but I'm sure he's just hovering on the 1ne spot, sweeping up the same fag ends and concrete spots over and over again. There's a refugee from the night before sleeping vulnerably on the park bench - a sparkly mess of spangles, bangles and ignored advice about the dangers of alcohol. She has one heel on the ground isolated and alone, her fringe swept right across her face, her arm trying to push her up even as the rest of her body is asleep, and her friends have long disappeared into the night, tales of misadventure to be recapped for another day. Outside 1ne of the breakfast bars, an Asian woman is jabbing her finger violently into the face of the shopkeeper, aggrevied anxiety written into every wrinkle as she recounts a broken string of injustices, all of them mounting endlessly into a tableaux of despair, while her impervious to sunlight husband, pale and ghostly, sits at the table barely moving a muscle, munching on muesli with a middling expression on his face. Her finger jabbing gets her nowhere, and in the end she's left screaming into thin air. The malcontented feelings come back, as I yearn for bed, some form of mid morning joy, my unfocused eyes struggling against the light. The girl on the bench stirs a little, makes a noise like she's about to vomit, and then goes back to sleep. The street sweeper makes an arc, and in a flurry of apathy and brushes is heading in the direction of the girls heel, munching it up with a crunch and a smile that suggests he knew exactly what he was doing. I'd stick around to explain what happened to the girls heel to her, but she looks settled in for the day. My cousin sashays down the concrete like a catwalk professional, we exchange a hug, and the bag is handed over with the minimum of fuss. After she leaves, the girl on the park bench yells out the name Brett in a deep inhuman voice, and goes back to sleep, the cares of the world lost in a daze, mines very much yet to unfold in the gloom....

On the way back to the hotel - a class below my usual standards I must admit, mostly because the shower felt like a tiny child had spat on me - I'm stuck at a traffic light for an age. The little red man seems to thoroughly enjoy the power he has over us all, discontented commuters milling around like livestock in danger, waiting for just a glimpse of green. There's a girl at the traffic lights with hairdresser hips and a squeaky voice, in 1ne of those tops that seem trendy at the time but which will become a bugbear to her image in later years if she is ever photographed in it. She's got 1ne hand on her hip and a diamond ring that glints and sparkles but seems cheap on closer inspection. She's gossiping loudly to her galpal, a dis-interested semi skeleton with a know it all expression and a garish lemon yellow T-shirt that hangs off her emaciated frame with a devil may care attitude to gravity. She's texting, Twittering or something, pressing her bony fingers into the keypad while a smiling child with flickering eyes tries to negotiate the perils of eating a sandwich without getting it all over his face. The first girl is wrapping up a tale about her boyfriend, which seems to imply he was involved in a police chase, the exaggerated details failing to engage her bony companion to even look up for a second. For whatever reason, the perils of Gary - it's always a Gary with those hairdressers, I'm sure the hippy hairdresser I lusted after in Burnie turned me down for a Gary - engage me in a silent flick through my IPOD listing. It gets to a gripping point in the tale, although the words are distinctly rapidfire and high pitched, where Gary apparently had gun drawn on a policeman and a tense stand off ensuing, and to my eternal chagrin, the red man goes green with envy, frantically flickering and permitting everyone to cross the road, and I lose the thread of the story, the 2wo girls disappearing in a blur of conversation, while the kid stands bewildered with tomato dripping all over his face. I think the kid was engrossed in the story as well, or his first view of hairdresser hips...

There's a barmaid in a pub later that day - she's got a tattoo on her arm, some sort of dragon looking ridiculously fierce, at least in intent, I just think it looks camp. She's familiar and friendly, a shock of red hair and a cheerful smile disguising her inability to pour a pint of beer that didn't look like a liquidy golden mess, of a particular shade that brought back youthful defiant staring into the sun just because my Mum told me it was wrong. She's telling a semi tedious story about her diet, although in deference to a regular patron she interrupts talking to us to acknowledge the old boys seniority and give him a free Samboy chip or 2wo. She begins to weave a complicated story about the importance of dieting, a tale told in a perky upbeat service is important kind of way, while out of politeness we nod and smile while The View flickers unimportantly on the TV behind us. After a moment, during which I realise it's impossible to figure out her age from her face alone, a plumber comes in. He's a little older, the legman in the duo forced to lug the heavy equipment into the broken toilets. The barmaid breaks mid description of the importance of eating bananas to follow the plumbers trail down the hallway, and his eyes meet her for an awkward tense second before he disappears, having dropped his monkey wrench in the moment. She begins awkwardly cleaning a glass over and over again, mutters something about they dated 1nce, and leaves it at that, staring out through a plate glass window with ridiculously unsuited to the surroundings poignancy, poignancy Barbara Walters spoils by pulling a stupid face, and the old boy in the corner ruins by thumping an empty glass on the counter, his bald head shining in the light as he embarks on a mission for beer, a mission he has all the time in the world to complete...

They gouged me at the airport - 7even dollars for a sandwich. I'd complain, but I'd sound like 1ne of those horrible observational comics and I don't have any real follow through on the observation other than a Seinfeldesque what's up with that? Satre might have said hell is being trapped in a room forever with your friends, but it's far worse eating a 7even dollar sandwich with your friends in a mid morning airport, especially when eating the sandwich is making an impossibly tense get to the airport 3hree hours early worrier like me feel like we might miss the plane. I do feel contented because everyone is still talking, which is the definition of success for a trip these days. Everyone is still talking and no one got bashed. There's a fancy dan on his phone across from us, slicked back hair, a mobile phone so small it has to be pointed out to you, legs swinging freely on a stool. He's self confident and loud, a minature Gordon Gecko with white teeth and a smile spread wide across his face. In the blink of an eye though, he slips, his shiny Rick Astley shoes catch on the bottom edge of the stool, and he stumbles off it, landing face down on a just scrubbed floor, quickly scrambling to make sure he's got his keys in his pocket and his dignity still intact. He recovers as best as he can, eyes frantically scanning the crowd like overactive windscreen wipers to see if anyone saw his slip. Satisfied no-one did, he resumes his position, his smile, his game show host poise, and resume his phone conversation as if nothing happened. But we saw - we laughed, we enjoyed, we saw him fall, and we walked off not having to discuss any of the more awkward moments of the trip or why in the hell we were dragged along to the sushi bar. We had a shared memory that would take us all the way to the car park without a need to discuss anything else that happened...

And just like that...contentment...

6 comments:

Samantha said...

Jolly :)
It sounds good.

I was behind a fascinating family on a late night train once. Two drunk old men and their even drunker older father who had just gotten out of jail for armed robbery. They were cheerily shaking their heads over how hard he was. It was sweet.

I got the impression that the police had never found the money.

Kath Lockett said...

Contentment, eh? A highly underestimated state of being in my opinion.

Baino said...

Beautifully descriptive as always but what did you actually do in Melbourne besides observe? And I agree with you. .Melbourne Airport is not only a food rip off but there's precious little to buy after 8pm . .shame for shame!

Miles McClagan said...

That is sweet - nothing says awwww like criminals re-united. Now THERE is a website...strokes chin...

I don't get it very often. Unless Collingwood win. Or my Facebook friends visit...

Watched some football, ate some overpriced food, negotiated the price of some 7/11 stuff...the usual stuff. Melbourne Airport is pretty terrible, a 7even buck sandwich...ridiculous! I was there at 2wo in the morning once, it was mad, all you can do is go on the Internet or buy a 20 dollar muffin...

G said...

You sure do lead an interesting existence.

Did you get to spend a few minutes chatting up your cousin after dropping off her suitcase?

Miles McClagan said...

No, it was very much drop off and run, story ended. It's no-ones fault, 1ne night she had a headache, the next I did...it was just a meeting then a farewell...